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Time is running out for the US Airways Dividend Miles program, and the ability to book Oneworld award tickets using your Dividend Miles balance will soon disappear with it. This is going to be a sad day for all points and miles enthusiasts, as US Airways has traditionally had lax routing rules. The program has given many travelers the ability to book dream itineraries for relatively few miles. Let’s look at some strategies you should utilize to get the most out of the Dividend Miles program before your miles are pooled into your AAdvantage account.
Apparently the last day to use US Airways miles before they are combined into American AAdvantage miles is March 28th, according to TravelingBetter.
Avoid Long Wait Times
Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed longer than normal wait times to get an award booking agent on the phone. After speaking with several of them, they all say it seems like they can’t get caught up. I imagine many award travelers recognize the program’s value and are trying to get in several last minute bookings.
A friend who recently booked his own US Airways award offered a great tip to avoid long wait times:
“I noticed the fastest way to reach a US Dividend Miles award travel agent is to call from AA [1-800-433-7300] and have them transfer you to a Dividend Miles agent. The entire process is unbelievably fast (roughly less than 15 minutes), so say bye to the 45 minutes-3 hours wait.”
Another strategy I use is to call the Spanish speaking phone line to get an agent more quickly. The agents are generally bilingual and will help me out in English.
Utilize Routing Rules to Book Amazing Itineraries
As I mentioned, the US Airways partner award chart has some great bargains. You can fly from the US and Canada to Southeast Asia in first class for 160,000 miles round-trip, and you can leverage it into a longer trip like the one my friend booked 2 days ago. Here’s his itinerary
- Miami to San Francisco via Charlotte – US Airways First Class
- San Francisco to Tokyo Haneda – Japan Airlines First Class (Spending a Week in Tokyo)
- Tokyo Haneda to Hong Kong – Cathay Pacific First Class (Spending a night in Hong Kong)
- Hong Kong to Saigon – Cathay Pacific Business Class (Spending 10 days in Vietnam)
- Saigon to Hong Kong – Cathay Pacific Business Class
- Hong Kong to Newark – Cathay Pacific Business Class
- Newark to Miami – American Airlines First Class
The total cost per person for that itinerary was just 140,000 miles and $120. US Airways now averages out the cost of an award ticket based on classes of service for inbound and outbound legs. Since his itinerary had business and first, US Airways priced the ticket at 140,000 miles instead of 160,000.
I had a similar experience booking my sister on the following round-the-world itinerary from Houston last summer:
- Houston to Philadelphia
- Philadelphia to Venice (5 days in Venice)
- Venice to Istanbul
- Istanbul to Osaka
- Osaka to Tokyo (3 weeks in Tokyo)
- Tokyo to Calgary
- Calgary to Houston
The total cost for that ticket was 55,000 miles and $125 in taxes and fees. Economy awards from the US and Canada to North Asia are 60,000 miles round-trip, and the agent gave 5,000 miles off for being a US Airways Premier World MasterCard holder. The agent didn’t mind that the routing to Asia from the US was via Europe.
Over the last 6 months, it has become more difficult to pass complex itineraries off as valid routings and get the price you’re looking for. I suspect with the integration of some American Airlines practices and training, agents and the US Airways IT system are getting tighter about what should and shouldn’t be allowed. It may take multiple calls to reach an agent and a supervisor/rate desk agent to ticket your proposed routing. If you’re not getting the response you’re looking for, hang up and call again.
Find Award Space
To find Oneworld award space, I recommend using the British Airways Avios search function on BA.com. It shows most Oneworld partner flights. Search leg by leg for award space and write down exactly the flights you want. When you get a US Airways agent on the phone, feed them the segments one by one. If your itinerary is complex, they’ll have to put you on hold and go to the rate desk to figure out taxes and fees, and tell you if your itinerary is a valid routing.
You may get a dud of a phone agent. Often they can’t see or access award space that should be there based on what BA.com is telling you. For flights leaving early in the morning (let’s say 1 am), the agent may need to search the day before the flight departs in order to get it to appear on their system. I’ve had agents tell me that they “needed to pull up award space another way.” I have not had them explain to me what that means, but I’ve turned that around and suggested to agent who can’t see award space that they also “try and pull it up the other way.” It has helped a few times. Again, when in doubt, hang up and call again.
What US Airways award ticket have you recently booked?